LibriVox recording of The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller. Read by George Cooney.
An autobiography of Helen Keller published when the author was still in her early 20's. The narrative reveals how her mind developed and matured until she began her studies at Radcliffe College. (Summary by George Cooney)
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April 24, 2017 Subject:
One of Finest Memoirs Out There
I have read many excellent memoirs. The best of them are honest. Helen Keller was a naughty child. She does not gloss over that. Her keen sense may be attributed, not just to innate intelligence, but to the compensation of some faculties to the loss of others. "My dullness," she says, "would have exhausted the patience of Job."
She knew many persons of note at an early age, including Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Drummond. In spite of her limitations, she traveled a fair bit as well. She was blessed to have been born to a family that had the resources to help her meet the challenge of her infirmities. Her personal teachers and their wise ways deserve more recognition. Their patience, wisdom, and dedication are remarkable. Both her teachers and her parents were wise to not discipline Helen for being naughty, for she often was not able to understand her naughtiness until later.
We can be taught to appreciate little things much more than we do by considering how someone who is deaf and mute reaches out with other senses in order to understand. For example, how many of us would remember the smell of cloves from the breath of a horse? It is easier to understand why dogs are afraid of thunder by how Helen Keller relates how she experienced noises.
There is not a lot of religion in the narrative. But the end of chapter seven will remind the Christian of the association he should feel with Jesus. The passage is a beautiful word of praise to her teachers. It seems that Helen Keller was not a Christian, though, at least not when she wrote this memoir. She confesses to liking the thought, for example, of "filling old skins of dogma with the new wine of love." The 'fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man,' moreover, is the heresy that everyone is alright so long as they do good. Given the body's need for water, it is interesting that this was the word by which the light of language broke into her life. I was in suspense about some allusions to the 'water of life' being made. But I was disappointed.
The courses that a person had to take and the subjects that a person had to be proficient in before being accepted for college in her day is astonishing. It shows what a retrograde has happened since. What kid preparing for college today would have the fortitude to learn French, German, and Latin first, not the mention geometry and other hard subjects? Even in her day, though, college was about learning more than thinking, which is a fault.
Helen Keller's composition is more brilliant and animate than anything being written today: "ideas that flit across the mental sky, shaped and tinted by capricious fancy."
The reader has a sympathetic, pleasant voice, with an attractive accent. It is not an issue at all that he is a man reading a woman's memoir. No one could do this better.
May 3, 2010 Subject:
The Story of My Life
The Story of My Life (1903) is the "miracle worker" Hellen Keller's autobiography. It is the primary source used in most of the films about her, by which she is most widely known, which is ironic since she can not see or hear. The first 4 chapters are about her transition from the state of a feral child under the guidance of "teacher" who gives the unruly Hellen her first word "wha wha" (water). This scene has mythic power, as she discovers language, she is able to express herself and make a connection with others, a fundamental human need. It struck a chord, a Gallop pole ranked her the 5th most admired person of the 20th century, behind only Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Einstein and Martin Luther King. She wrote her autobiography when only 22 years old; this has the benefit of a youthful energy, close enough to her childhood to remember it, but the final chapters lack the substance of a life yet fully lived. I found the chapter about her favorite authors and books fascinating, a life of the mind unhindered by disability. I listened to the LibriVox recording, version 2 by George Cooney, which is excellent.